Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The beauty of doctrine

"Doctrine is the drama"
That's what my Systematic Theology professor said last night after asking him a question. He cited Dorothy Sayers as saying it. She actually said "It is the dogma that is the drama," but it essentially means the same thing. I thought it was beautiful quote. I couldn't then and still can't get it out of my head.

My professor had just finished going through the names of God. He kept pointing out that the names of God are revealed to man. Man doesn't tell God what His names are. He went on to say how certain human caricatures of God do Him injustice. So, when we see books, pictures, movies, etc. about Jesus, they ultimately fall short of who God really is, revealed to us in Scripture.

The drama, the true drama that is meant to ignite our hearts is there for us in the Bible. It's meant to be enough.

Reformed theology vs. Reformed culture

I agree with what Ray Ortlund says here:
"I like Reformed theology. I believe it's what the Bible teaches. But I don't like Reformed culture. I don't believe it's what the Bible teaches.

Reformed theology is all about grace deciding to treat people better than they deserve, for the sheer glory of it all. Sometimes Reformed culture doesn't look like that, feel like that, taste like that. It gives people exactly what they deserve, as judged by the Reformed person. But who exalted him as judge in the first place? Our true Judge stepped down to become our Friend. That theology of grace must translate into the sociology of grace as we treat one another better than anyone deserves, for the sheer glory of it all."
I've had many conversations with people over the years about this very issue. Many are unattracted to the doctrines of grace because of the types of people that believe in them. I lament that this is the case.

Louie Giglio on Passion City Church

Louie Giglio recently did an interview with Christianity Today about the planting of Passion City Church here in Atlanta. It helped me understand a little bit more of where he's coming from. Check it out

Here's one question and answer:
Why are you planting a new church in Atlanta?

In my heart something has been changing and turning for about the last five years. Christ died for the local church. While I've spoken at many of them, and Passion has influenced them around the world, I want to be able to lay down at the feet of Jesus and say I gave it a shot—I tried to build into the local community of faith that he gave his life for, that he loved, and that he believed is the best agent for change in the world.

It's about a man who wants to be obedient to God. It's about me, at 50, hearing the voice of God and saying yes, I will follow that.
(HT:Justin Taylor)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Working in the world through film

Over the last few days, there has been some critical feedback directed towards this article published in the Wall Street Journal. Basically the article was written by the founder of and tries to show that the United States prefers moral/capitalistic movies based on some profitability statistics (that weren't very convincing). In making their arguement, the authors end up alienating Christians from being thought of as good artists within the movie industry. Mark Moring from Christianity Today wrote a great response to the Wall Street article. Scott also jumped in the discussion here

Jeffrey Overstreet, author and award winning film reveiwer, has responded to much of this as well, and I like what he had to say at the end of this post:
"When the loudest 'Christian voices' in the media consistently embarrass those that actually have something of merit to contribute… when they manipulate statistics and pretend that all America wants are cute, safe, Christian stories with pre-packaged morals at the end… how can we hope to have any meaningful engagement in culture, or appreciate the riches of the stories and movies that others have to share?

If anybody reading this wonders, 'What’s the big deal? Why not have a Christian movie industry?' I encourage you to read the first three chapters of Through a Screen Darkly. That’s where I shared stories from my own life about the awful consequences that can come from such good intentions, and I also shared examples of what is possible when Christian cast of 'branding' and instead glorify God with quiet excellence. If we stop focusing on creating 'Christian Spielbergs' we may realize that God is already revealing himself through Spielberg himself, and that by working in the world rather than separating ourselves from it, we follow Christ’s own example."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Should the falling home values be stopped?

Here's a quick, insightful jab at the logic of wanting to stop the falling prices of homes. This is the opening line:
"Here's the big problem with almost all the current rhetoric about the housing crisis: It presumes that the goal should be to get house prices rising again. The problem with that idea is that, even after a 25% decline, house prices are still way too high."
(HT:Tim Challies)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lost combining the sacred and the secular

If you watch Lost, you might enjoy this review of last night's eposide by Paste Magazine. Here's how it begins:
"Lost has a long, complicated relationship with religion. While the show is not overtly religious, it is decidedly metaphysical, and not just as a sci-fi nodding to whatever else is "out there." Smoke monsters, ghosts, baptisms, churches and priests with rosaries and biblical walking sticks have all populated the island's lush environs since Season One.

It's highly personal, but this has always made me slightly uncomfortable. Perhaps it's our rigorous separation of church and state that disallowed me from saying the Pledge of Allegiance in middle school, or the music industry's black-and-white genres, marketing Switchfoot to a completely different audience than Iron and Wine. With a divider like the island's electric-fence security system, I want my religion over here and my entertaining sci-fi over there, never the twain to meet.

But in a world where polar bears roam the tropics, this doesn't seem a realistic option. And it probably shouldn't be. Last night's Lost pulled religious (primarily Catholic) themes into the mix again, and I started to settle into it, realizing that this show is all about that twilight zone between the real and imaginary, the sacred and the secular, the bizarre and highly mundane. It pushes us into those uncomfortable places, and perhaps therein lies its brilliance."

Bill Clinton, the Calvinist

This is funny. Irish Calvinist reports on something Bill Clinton said recently:
Bill Clinton: "'I’m too much of a Calvinist. If I don’t work everyday I get nervous.'

Now, if there was ever a title that was universally misunderstood it is Calvinism."
Check out the video

Best Oscar Speeches

Well, the Oscars are Sunday night and I know at least one person who will be watching.

Paste magazine recently listed their top 10 most memorable Oscar acceptance speeches.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Where's $819 billion going?

This chart is helpful look at the specific places where Obama's $819 billion economic stimulus plan will go.

(HT:Tim Challies)

Wondering about our worth

Jon Acuff has an insightful and somewhat humorous post on seeking approval:
"Two weeks ago news broke that Alex Rodriguez, arguably one of the greatest baseball players of our generation, took steroids in 2003. If you don’t follow sports, this was a huge deal. It's the equivalent of say, Samson using performance enhancements or finding out that David had used a pistol on Goliath instead of a sling.

That a professional athlete used steroids isn't that interesting to me, but in his confession interview with Peter Gammons, Rodriguez said something really revealing. When asked why he did it, when asked why after signing the biggest, most lucrative contract in baseball history for $252 million, he risked it all by taking steroids, he replied:

'When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me, and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day. Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive. And I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.'

He wanted to prove to everyone that he was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. That when the Texas Rangers signed that $252 million contract, Alex Rodriguez was worth it. He wanted the fans and the owners of the ball club and people that watch him on television and journalists and anyone that ever came in contact with him to believe he was worth it.

He wanted to know that he was enough.

The unfortunate thing for me and Rodriguez is that no one on the planet is going to be able to tell us that to our satisfaction. Not a stadium full of fans, not every coworker I've ever had. Not a sports journalist. Not my web traffic or technorati ranking or eventual book sales.

That's the problem with asking other people to tell us we're enough. They can't. They didn't make us. They didn't knit us in the womb or imagine us thousands of years before our parents danced at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance. (That's Back to the Future reference number two for those playing along at home.)

Even our friends and family members, the people that know and love us best can’t satisfy the deep desires of our heart because they didn't put them there. They don't know where they're hidden or even know what this crazy work of art called 'our lives' is supposed to look like.

And when we ask other people to tell us we're worth enough we end up doing crazy things. Like taking steroids or lying in bed awake at night wondering why your name wasn't on a Microsoft Outlook Meeting Invite.

Fortunately for you and me and Alex Rodriguez I went ahead and asked God if we were all worth it. He said 'yes.' He said He sent His Son because He wanted us to know how very 'enough' we all were. He said to feel free to ask Him that same question yourself. Go on, I dare you to. I promise that regardless of whether you're one of the greatest baseball players that ever lived or a stay at home mom that feels invisible sometimes, the answer is going to be yes."

The Uniqueness of the past four generations

Adbusters has an interesting photo piece on four living generations that have set the stage for the political youth of today.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The world needs substance

Billy Joel:
"When you listen to the radio, you hear the canned, frozen, processed flutter being dished to the world as the American kind of music...I need substance in my life. And the world needs substance. The world doesn't need any more hip. Hip is dead. The world doesn't need any more cool, more clever. The world needs more substantial things. The world needs more greatness."
(HT:Ray Ortlund)

Bono trying to make a difference

Sean O'Hagan (with the Observer) recently spent 18 months with U2. He ended up writing this article, and including an interview with Bono. He speaks a little about what sets U2 apart:
"What is most intriguing - and, to their detractors, infuriating - about U2 is that they succeeded by ignoring, indeed breaking, most of the unwritten rules of rock stardom. They didn't - with the exception of the pre-rehab Adam Clayton - do sex or drugs and, as their critics pointed out, neither did they really do rock'n'roll. They were not rebellious, nor angst-ridden, nor did they trade on adolescent alienation or anger. Instead, they did joy. And spiritual joy, to boot. This made them unfashionable in Britain, the irony capital of the world, where sincerity, especially sincerity tinged with spirituality, is seen, at best, as uncool, at worst as downright embarrassing.

'One of the reason's for U2's longevity,' says Brian Eno, 'is that they are not in music for entirely selfish reasons. I don't want to make them appear as evangelists, which, of course, they were seen as by some sections of the music media in the early 80s, but I do believe that they really think that what they do serves some greater purpose than simply filling their bank accounts.'"
Here's an interesting part of the interview that reveals Bono's desire to help change the face of Africa:
"SOH From where I'm sitting, though, a lot of the people that you are bargaining with, and who are undoubtedly helping save lives in Africa, have also, by their actions elsewhere, shown a blatant disregard for human life on a grand scale. Surely, that, too, is their legacy?

Bono "Look, it's appalling and shocking and not ever excusable, the waste of human life. But on our issues, all I can say to you is that there are 29 million children in Africa who were not going to school and who now are. That's just in seven years. Now, that's not an excuse for a wrong-headed adventure. It's not an excuse. But I don't believe Tony Blair is evil. I know him enough to know that he is a sincere and serious person who would in any unserious way make those decisions and, though I disagreed with those decisions at the time, I think it's really simplistic to think that he is anyone's poodle."

SOH So, hand on heart, when you are dealing with these political heavyweights, do you ever think you are being played?

Bono "I don't care if I get the results. You have to judge me only by the results. If there were no results and you saw a picture of me hanging out with George Bush or Tony Blair or whoever, that would be a different matter. But if you see a picture of me and Bush and two years later you hear people saying 'How on earth did a conservative administration start the largest response to the Aids emergency yet?' I understand why people threw tomatoes at me at the time but even the worst critics have stopped."

SOH There must be moments in all this when you stop and think, this is too surreal. What the hell am I doing here?

Bono "All the time. I mean, there's me and Bob [Geldof] at the G8, and there's the Japanese and their plane is parked over here, and Air Force One is parked over there, and there's the French, the Italians, the Russians, the leaders and a tight coterie of advisers. And then there's fucking Bill and Ben the Flower Pot Men who've somehow been let in. And Bush is going, 'Hey, Bono!' And there's Sarkozy and Merkel, who has given us the keys too because she's heard from Tony Blair that we were the right people to let in. Will we see the likes of it again? I don't know. It still feels mad to me, how that even happened."
Read the whole thing

(HT:Looking Closer)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Obama indirectly supporting the porn industry?

President Obama recently nominated David Ogden as Deputy Attorney General of the United States. Al Mohler explains more about who David Ogden is and why this decision is a "dangerous" one:
"David Ogden has been in the forefront of arguing for the unrestricted sale and distribution of any and all pornography by any and all means - and now he will be in charge of prosecuting those who were his clients and arguing against all that he has argued in the past. Are we to believe that this will have no effect on prosecutions against pornography?"
Read the whole thing

Doubt: making hope that much sweeter

If you're like me, and you sometimes wrestle with doubt, you probably feel isolated in those moments. Like you're the only one who has ever thought the things you are thinking, or that a "good Christian" wouldn't have these experiences. Of course, that is not the case.

Jon Bloom, over at the Desiring God blog, explains the story of how Jesus graciously deals with the doubt John the Baptist experienced. And he concludes this way:
"In this age, even the greatest, strongest saints experience deep darkness. None of us are spared sorrow or satanic oppression. Most of us suffer agonizing affliction at some point. Most of us will experience seasons when we feel as if we’ve been abandoned. Most of us will die hard deaths.

The Savior does not break the bruised reed. He hears our pleas for help and is patient with our doubts. He does not condemn us. He has paid completely for any sin that is exposed in our pain.

He does not always answer with the speed we desire, nor is his answer always the deliverance we hope for. But he will always send the help that is needed. His grace will always be sufficient for those who trust him. The hope we taste in the promises we trust will often be the sweetest thing we experience in this age. And his reward will be beyond our imagination.

In John’s darkness and pain Jesus sent a promise to sustain John’s faith. He will do the same for you."
Read the whole thing

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The History of Valentine's Day

Like many westernized, consumer-driven holidays, Valentine's Day began celebrating much different ideas than it does today. It seems to have started as a commemoration of the death of a Christian named Valentine who was martyred because of his faith in 269.

Read the rest of the history here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Interview with Piper

Here's a short interview of John Piper, recently done by C.J. Mahaney, that moves from deep to superficial questions.

I liked this question in particular:
What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?

Don’t preach in a way that a Muslim would approve. Preach a divine crucified Christ.
(HT:Abraham Piper)

Calvin and the Economy

I love Calvin and Hobbes. It's hilarious and brilliant. Here's a timely cartoon published 15 years ago. (Click to enlarge)


Friday, February 06, 2009

Paste's top 17 romantic comedies of the decade

Jeremy Madina, from Paste magazine, offers his list of the 17 best romantic comedies of this decade (Be sure to click the link above for a breif synopsis and a standout quote for each movie). Though I don't consider myself much of a romantic comedy watcher, I have seen 7 out of his top 10 (but none of the last 7). How many have you seen? Do you agree with the list?

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Before Sunset
3. Amelie
4. Wall-E
5. High Fidelity
6. Punch Drunk Love
7. Sideways
8. Knocked Up
9. Juno
10. About a Boy
11. Lars and the Real Girl
12. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
13. 40 Year Old Virgin
14. Bridget Jones' Diary
15. Ghost Town
16. Science of Sleep
17. Waitress

The beginning and impact of Facebook

Yesterday marked the 5th anniversary of the beginning of Facebook. And if you've never looked in to how it started, it's worth checking out. Al Mohler shares his thoughts:
"Today's student generation, the "Digital Natives," know of no existence before cell phones, the Internet, e-mail, and text messaging. Social networking perfectly fits their lifestyle and worldview. They assume 24/7 social contact -- or at least access to this contact just a few clicks away.

Social networking is like any new technology. It must be evaluated on the basis of its moral impact as well as its technological utility. Social networking sites offer unprecedented opportunities for communication and contact -- and that is both the promise and the peril of the technology."

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Worldwide persecution of Christians

The Christian Post reports the Top 10 countries in which Christians face the most persecution. They noted that more than half of the list was made of Islamic countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, and Uzbekistan):

1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Iran
4. Afghanistan
5. Somalia
6. Maldives
7. Yemen
8. Laos
9. Eritrea
10. Uzbekistan

And for more information on persuction happening around the world, Voice of the Martrys is a good site to check out.

"Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body." - Hebrews 13:3

(HT:Tim Challies)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Funniest Super Bowl ads

Paste magazine weighs in with their Top 10.

Here's their favorite:

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Strobel asks questions of atheists

In Part 3 of an ongoing series at Friendly Atheist blog, Lee Strobel responds to this question:"What argument is most convincing to plant the seeds of doubt (or, rather, faith) in an atheists mind?" He does this by citing several people and questions they have for atheists. I'd encourage to read the whole thing and the comments, but here's my favorite part:
"I didn’t email Alvin Plantinga, considered by many to be among the greatest philosophers of modern times. But based on his assertion that naturalism is self-defeating, we could formulate this question (thanks to William Lane Craig for some of the concise wording): If our cognitive faculties were selected for survival, not for truth, then how can we have any confidence, for example, that our beliefs about the reality of physical objects are true or that naturalism itself is true? (By contrast, theism says God has designed our cognitive faculties in such a way that, when functioning properly in an appropriate environment, they deliver true beliefs about the world.)"